Most of us enter our homes through the garage.
As a result, this transitional area can become junky in a heartbeat.
We see it only as we cruise through on the way from the car, usually shedding backpacks, shoes, and umbrellas in our wake.
Oh, no problem, we think, we'll pick them up later. But we rarely make time to do that. At least once a year, set aside a Saturday for garage cleaning with kids.
Garage-cleaning day is the ideal time to ooh and ahh over all your old treasures and reevaluate whether to keep them. Try to send the little ones away for this occasion. Ages 8 and up will be of help. Anyone younger will be of hindrance.
Start your garage cleaning with kids by having plastic bags everywhere: for charity, for trash, for sale, and for resituating.
Is the patio umbrella dirty? Clean it. Is the artificial Christmas tree bent? Repair it or toss it. (You rarely need a backup Christmas tree.)
At the end of the day, cart away the bags for trash and charity. (Do it today, or you'll leave them cluttering the garage for another five months.) Set aside stuff that someone else might want for a garage sale. Let the children benefit from their hard work.
Be sure to clean the garage while it's empty. Sweep it out, get rid of oil stains, brush away cobwebs - you get the picture. If you have oil stains on the floor, here's how to get rid of them.
Scrape up any accumulation. Absorb oil with a noncombustible material such as automatic dishwasher detergent or cat litter.
Grind it into the oil a bit. Leave it on for several minutes, and then pour boiling water on the stained areas. Scrub the floor with a stiff brush or push broom, and then rinse it with water.
Sprinkle baking soda over the cleaned area to neutralize the solution that you've used. Never clean with gasoline. And get that leaky car fixed!
Treat other garage-floor stains with Spray 'n Wash, let them rest, and then srub them away with automatic dishwasher detergent.
If you see evidence of rodent droppings, send the kids away.
Put on a mask. Wet the area first. Then wipe the droppings up. You do not want to accidentally inhale any of the rodent droppings because they harbor viruses and bacteria.
It's a good idea to wet all dusty areas before sweeping or wiping.
This keeps the dust from swirling around and giving you an allergy or asthma attack. Or use a sweeping compound. This mixture of oil, sand, and sawdust catches and holds dirt instead of throwing it up in the air when you sweep.
Once the garage floor is clean, apply a cement sealer to seal the concrete floor and protect it from spills. Cement sealers are a great primer if you want to really get fancy and paint the floor.
To limit the amount of dust and dirt that your family tracks into the house, place a small indoor-outdoor carpet or large doormat in front of the entry door.
Here's a guide to which garage chores kids can do to care for and clean up the garage. Once a child reaches a certain skill or age level, he can generally do the chores for his age group and those for the age groups below.
Of course, some of these chores need to be done each day, others once a week, and still, others once a month or even less frequently. Use your best judgment for what gets done when.